For the third time, we will be swapping houses with another family for our vacation. Italians are coming to us, and we’re going to Italy. We did our first three years ago, resulting in two magical weeks just south of Barcelona, and then went up to Montreal a few years back. We heard about the idea from some Brookliners who had done it years ago, becoming fast friends with one of their hosting families.
There are numerous websites that offer matching/swapping services. There’s one for those on sabbatical and not making a same-time swap, and then others for people like us, who need to make the exchange concurrently. The site we’ve used is http://intervac-homeexchange.com, but there are many out there. With ours, it’s possible to browse offerings for free, then sign up and pay for membership (about $100 a year), only when you’re ready to pull the trigger and contact a potential swapper. I suppose like internet dating, the process is to cull, establish contact, go back and forth a bit, perhaps hedge on a few, and then zero in on one. You can hang up your shingle with specific countries you’d like to travel to, leave things more open by encouraging contact from anywhere (that’s what we do) allowing whomever’s interested to contact you, or you can be aggressive and search specifically for what you might like (we do this as well).
I’m not sure about others, but my decisions are based first on location, and then aesthetics. So, we took the time to tidy up and even make the beds before we photographed our house.
We get many requests for people to come to our house. Brookline is a great spot for a swap because there are trees, walk to restaurants, cafes and shops, as well as close to town and on the T. This past year there were a lot of requests from Scandinavian countries (I would love to go, my compadres are not as enthused), Paris, many from Paris, Iceland and I’ve forgotten where else.
We all love being in a house instead of a hotel, it’s nice to be able to just get up and hang out. I love going to the local grocery store, though don’t really cook, more assemble meals. When we went to Spain, the brother of the woman we traded with met us at the airport late at night, drove us the hour to our house, later brought us to dinner at his mother’s house in an old hill town and invited us to his house in the Pyrenees. All things that greatly enriched our Spanish experience.
So, on Monday, we’re off to stay at the top of the Spanish Steps. Yes, it’s August in Rome (seemed like a good idea in February), but we will have a refuge, and will be taking day trips to greener places. In our second week, we will be staying in a very old farmhouse in Poppi, in Tuscany, the home of the parents of the family we are trading with. We feel very lucky to have found this great way of experiencing another country.